OZ KAFE

Ottawa Magazine - - BYWARD MARKET -

When Oz Kafe re­opened in 2017, it marked a rein­ven­tion of sorts for restau­ra­teur Oz Balpinar. Mov­ing from its beloved cor­ner on El­gin Street, the restau­rant’s rein­car­na­tion in the ByWard Mar­ket sees Balpinar build­ing on her ex­pe­ri­ence in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tion that aims to at­tract a dif­fer­ent clien­tele.

Now ex­ec­u­tive chef Kris­tine Hartling leads in the kitchen. A chef who has earned a fol­low­ing with stints at other well­re­spected restau­rants, Hartling was given com­plete menu free­dom. And so the din­ner menu is short and Euro­pean-fo­cused, with an em­pha­sis on lo­cally sourced food. It is an old-fash­ioned ap­pe­tizer and main course restau­rant, which, in a world of small plates, can seem down­right rev­o­lu­tion­ary. It also sets it­self apart by be­ing open very late — great news for peo­ple look­ing for an af­ter-the-show (or shift) al­ter­na­tive to shawarma.

No­table en­trées in­clude the Nagano pork rib chop; in­deed, it is among Hartling’s sig­na­ture dishes. Juicy and flavour­ful from brin­ing, it sits atop a sweet corn purée. No one will mind if you gnaw on the rib.

Tra­di­tional mush­room risotto is pre­sented as an ap­pe­tizer but is big enough to be a main, show­ing loy­alty to the Ital­ian clas­sic and re­spect to lo­cal fungi.

The new lo­ca­tion is a beau­ti­ful build­ing that we hear might have been sta­bles in the By­town era. It is easy to imag­ine the sound of hooves on the cob­ble­stones but harder to imag­ine that in those days, din­ers were lucky enough to en­joy such de­li­cious food.

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